JUST LIKE ANY OTHER DAY
"Hey," a voice came from Jamie's left as she took as seat on one of the many hard wooden chairs that crowded the small cafe opposite Parsons Hall Publishing House in her lunch hour. It was a Thursday, so just like any other day, and Jamie was happy to settle down with her usual Chai Latte, sandwich and book for the duration of her lunch and see how far she could get through Homers Odyssey before she gave up, ordered a slice of Victoria Sponge, and started people watching. This was her daily routine, aside from Mondays, and so she was not prepared for the smooth voice to her left that made her jump and spill the hot, spicy liquid all over her customary Bacon Lettuce and Tomato sandwich.
"Fuck," she hissed, setting the tall, glass cup down with too much force and watching morosely as the liquid soaked into the bread. She had been looking forwards to that sandwich.
"Hey," the voice came again, "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."
"Well y' did." she grouched and turned to face the stranger angrily, almost immediately regretting it. He was tall, the stranger, well over her height anyway, and it made her wish that she was wearing some sort of high heel, which was stupid because she hated heels and it was very likely that she'd fall over in them. She had yet to try.
He was also quite handsome; well, more attractive than anyone in her current workplace but that really wasn't hard. The well kept but ultimately dull men that worked in Parsons Hall Publishing were sometimes very hard to like with their barely there personalities and just do the work attitudes. Not to mention that they seemed to make no effort whatsoever to appear even slightly desirable to the opposite sex (or had ever, in fact, had sex at all), or they had and they just weren't very good at it. Either way the only person that Jamie found even remotely passable was James in IT, and Jamie had designated him pretty much off-limits because she was almost sure that he was definitely gay.
So it was safe to say that none of them, not even James, had anything on this guy. Both Gary and Peter, who worked in advertising, possessed the same dark hair as the stranger, although they had successfully ruined it by slicking it back awfully into an atrocious comb over. Coupled with their thick framed rectangular glasses, both had achieved a high level of 'stick in my arse' that she doubted the stranger ever would. His hair was suitably messy and definitely un-gelled in a way that caused it to fall casually across his forehead, some strands making their way under the thin frames of his stylish, but still rectangular, glasses.
"Sorry," the man said again, his strong jaw moved as he spoke, dusted with dark stubble that only added to the attraction. Most of the men in the Editorial department where she worked remained disappointingly clean shaven. Except Jim who sported a strong, quite impressive but slightly off-putting mustache that, along with the oddly neat mullet, put him slightly behind the times. "I just wanted to talk to you," the man continued, gesturing to her with a hand clad in black fingerless gloves that emerged from the slightly too big faded green jacket he wore over a plain brown top. Not really the best colour, brown, but it stretched nicely over his lean, muscled torso in a way that anyone could appreciate. "You seem familiar."
"Familiar?" Jamie repeated, watching as he shoved his glove covered hands into the back pockets of his dark jeans. "I doubt it. I don't know that many people." The man shrugged and pulled his hands out of his pockets, seating himself casually down in the chair opposite her.
"I didn't say I knew you," he flashed her a grin, "Just that you looked familiar, which you do."
"Right..." Jamie drew out the word as she peeled of the top layer of her sandwich, revealing the slightly wilted lettuce, two disks of disappointingly pale tomato and crispy bacon that promised to be her lunch's only redeeming quality, not counting the fit man in front of her. He may have been starting to sound strange, but he was always good to look at. She mopped up the stray drops of Chai Latte from the plate with the two soggy triangles of soft white bread that she'd removed from the sandwich, maybe the meal was salvageable.
"Well I'm Jamie if that helps. Jamie Wilson, I work in Parsons Hill Publishing across the way."
"Tristan Foster," the man replied, "You can call me Tris" he added, a small smirk tilting the side of his lips as he held out a hand for her to shake. "Lost and Found."
"Lost and Found?" Jamie questioned, an eyebrow raised and it suddenly dawned on her how weird it was talking to this man that she had just met and, within a second of her knowing he existed, had managed to ruin her lunch.
"You know, when people lose things and other people find it they give them to us. And then maybe we find the original owners." He told her, amusement creeping into his voice.
Jamie snorted, "Yeah," she picked up one half of the sandwich, wrinkling her nose in annoyance as the mayonnaise that still clung to the lettuce from the discarded tops of the bread transferred to her fingertips. "I know what lost and found is, it was just unexpected."
"Yeah well..." Tris shot her a grin, "Speaking of unexpected and lost items, that's a beautiful bracelet you're wearing. So beautiful, in fact, that I feel I have seen it before somewhere, namely my clients vaults."
"Excuse me?" Jamie asked incredulously, "What?" She glanced down at her left wrist and at the simple silver chain that she had fastened there that morning when she had dragged herself out of the almost scolding hot, beautifully refreshing, high pressure shower and tried to ready herself for the day. Attached to four separate links were four tiny different coloured stones dangling on a tiny, impossibly thin chain.
"Oh it's nothing really, I was just wondering where you got that bracelet." he nodded to the thing resting against her lightish brown skin.
"Charity shop," Jamie replied after giving him a long, confused look, "It was like, £2.50, why are asking me this?"
"Well," Tris began, "As I said before, I work in Lost and Found, and you see, as I also said, a client of mine gave me a picture of that saying it was missing, so of course I found it. I didn't really expect it to be with someone like you though." Jamie would have taken offence to the way he had said 'you' were the situation not so bizarre.
"I'm sorry," Jamie exclaimed, a slightly panicked tone that she would deny later making it's way into her voice, "And you tracked it here how?" This was one of those situations that required both an explanation mark and a question mark; Jamie was sure that there was a name for that.
"Oh you know," Tris dismissed the question, "Cross-dimensional trackers, homing charm, that sort of thing. Either way it's a problem." Cross-dimensional what's? What dimensions? And it was that little sentence there that really convinced Jamie of the most obvious explanation for this guy. He was crazy. Completely off-his-rocker insane, and he was making most of this up. Maybe, maybe he did work in lost and found, but everything else... not so much. Tris- and she really hoped that that was his name -however attractive, was completely insane.
It wasn't so weird, if you think about it, the amount of creepy people around the town was ridiculous. Just last week a tall, aging man with graying hair and a few deep wrinkles had seated himself at a table opposite hers during her lunch hour (it had been a Tuesday, so like any other day except for Mondays) and started having a full on conversation with an invisible man. As in, real two sided conversation, him speaking and waiting for replies and reacting to them and laughing raciously at the occasional jokes that no one else could hear. It had greatly impaired her attempts to struggle through 'Prelude to the Crisis' in the Odyssey but had made for an interesting lunch people watching.
So yeah the guy was crazy, which was... okay? Kind of. Maybe if she played along he'd go away...? She hoped he would, this entire affair promised to completely ruin the rest of her day, oh God she needed a real cup of tea. And maybe some cake, cake is always good. Jamie craned her head to peer past the crazy man and at the still quite long queue to the counter, slumping back in disappointment when she came to the conclusion that she really couldn't be arsed to stand up for that long.
"Okay," she said finally, turning to Tris, "Where are you going with this?" she chose not to comment on his weirdo-crazy remarks about Tans-dimensional tracking devices, she knew what they were anyway, she had watched just about every sci-fi movie and series needed to understand most forms of techno-babble.
"Well it's kind of a problem," Tris said apologetically, like he was sincerely sorry for ruining her lunch. He damn well better be. "Because if you don't know what that is, and I don't know how you came to have it in the end, it means that someone else definitely does." I'm sorry what? Jamie frowned in confusion, where was the logic in that?
"I don't get it," she told him, "I bought a bracelet in a charity shop, that apparently someone else owns," she unclasped the chain from her wrist, her tattered nail-bitten fingers struggling briefly with the clasp, "Can't you just, I don't know, take it back?" Tris winced and glanced around the room quickly, his expression suddenly grim.
"Well, first it means that some utter arsehole allowed someone else to get hurt, someone that they don't know, namely you." He pushed his chair back from the table slowly, "And second, well... I doubt you noticed but about five oddly suspicious people who don't belong in a coffee shop just walked in."
Ahh shit, she thought, a thread of disappointment rushing through her body. She should have seen that coming. Jamie had seen enough bad films to realize that when a guy, however crazy, finishes explaining something and realized that there's a problem, the big evil arrives immediately after as a show of remarkably perfect timing. It's all about the suspense, you see.
EVIL PEOPLE DON'T EAT CAKE
She glanced up in a way that she really hoped was as discrete as it was meant to be (although it earned a snort from Tris so apparently not) and tried to find the apparently evil people. It wasn't that hard, or at least she hoped it wasn't or she had the wrong guys. Her eyes has immediately zeroed on five particularly suspicious individuals sitting stiffly at a too small table with no drinks or cake to speak of. She supposed that villains didn't really eat dessert... but, both the Hunger games and Star Wars proved her wrong because really the people of the capital must eat cake or some sort of desert, and any self respecting person with access to the internet (or other people) knows that the dark side has cookies.
Anyway, she was pretty sure that they were evil although there were several other candidates in the room. The thin, weedy bloke in the corner was also very suspicious with his lack of cake and the bulky grey laptop that lay, unopened, on the table in front of him... but he was there all the time so he didn't count.
There was also a tall, bulky man who was eating cake (unsurprisingly) but the heavy leather jacket and biker boots radiated some sort of sinister motives. Although that may have had something to do with the fact that he was sitting in a cafe called Carries Cream Cookies, the words proudly painted in red and white script above the display window that gave a glimpse of the crowded, yet calm cafe within. He also happened to be sitting just beside a group of elderly knitting women that, were he to stand, would be dwarfed by the mountain of a man. The calm, distinctly innocent feel of the cafe just emphasized any evil the man radiated, which was shame because even if he wasn't one of the people Tris had meant (and she was pretty sure he wasn't) Jamie had now registered him of her list of questionable individuals.
Just beside the table of probably-evils were two girls with sharp, pointed pens (fountain pens) that moved rapidly across tattered notebooks on the table. They each had one arm curled protectively around the apparently private books, coffee and cake abandoned in front of them as they wrote on, glancing up every now and then as if they suspected that they were being watched. This, Jamie supposed, was kind of evil, or at least it had evil connotations, although now that she thought about it they were more likely to be Authors (or fanfiction writers) than evil warlords plotting the worlds demise. Actually that's probably the same thing.
Despite the multitude of evil people in the Cafe, (Jamie's opinion of it so-called friendly place had significantly lowered) Jamie was sure it was the strange group that had taken up residence near the doorway. This was partly because of their lack of cake, but mostly as a result of Tris' previous description, there were five of them, after all, as opposed to the group of mismatched evil people scattered around the cafe (which seemed much more tactical but much less likely).
Jamie (and Tris') suspicions were confirmed a moment later when the one closest to the door, a remarkably muscular woman who looked to be about half her height (although that was highly unlikely, Jamie was awful at judging that sort of thing) and long, curling hair, stood from her seat, knocking it backwards her haste. Jamie's eyes widened in shock as the woman turned to the fallen chair and grabbed it by two of the thin metal legs, swinging it backwards with some force before bringing it forwards and letting go. A hand on her shoulder pulled her back, out of the way, and the chair went hurtling past her and into the wall behind with much more force than should be possible. A deep indent was left in the wall where the chair had hit, the tattered remains crumbling to the floor below, and the cafe erupted.
IT IS POSSIBLE TO BUY WEAPONS IN CHARITY SHOPS
Jamie screamed, which she was never going to mention ever again but was a perfectly okay response to the situation at the time. Tris jumped up from where he had been sprawled besides her quickly (and with annoying ease) and began to back slowly away from the designated evils, his eyes never leaving them. Jamie scrambled backwards as quickly as she could, not bothering to pull herself up of the floor as she attempted to remain behind Tris at all times, because hey, she may not know him but he seemed to be the only person who knew what was going on (and was possibly on her side). She also had absolutely no problem with Human Shields, however hot they may be.
Jamie briefly registered the chaos that was now Carries Cream Cookies. Computer guy had wedged himself desperately in the corner behind his usual table, his laptop clutched to his chest like a lifeline. The weird evil biker guy (in hindsight- not that evil) was cowering behind a chair, much to small and flimsy to hide his great frame, heavy tears welling up in his eyes and he didn't even notice the group of elderly women who had taken refuge behind him, their knitting needles clutched tightly in well worn hands like weapons. Jamie damn well hoped they knew how to use them.
The Authors (evil warlords) had vacated their table, at least, but both still in possession of their precious notebooks, looks of shocked horror crossed with something entirely worrying on their faces. Jamie thought maybe it was glee, or something remarkably close, although she hoped she was wrong. She hoped, but when one of the girls pried her notebook partially open and began to scrawl something down in the exposed section, it seemed all hope was lost.
"Human!" Jamie's off-track thought process was brought back to the matter at hand, "Give us the Weapon!" Weapon? Jamie almost screeched, another exclamation mark question mark moment, what the hell did they mean weapon? Although she had just enough sense to not say it out loud, because if there was one thing that Jamie was extremely glad that she had learnt in that instance, it was that it was not a good idea to draw attention to herself. She had also learnt that she was maybe wearing a weapon around her wrist which was not as useful.
Tris held out a hand to pull her up, which she reluctantly took (Jamie was perfectly happy on the ground thank you very much, where there was less open space and more cover) and stood so that she was angled just behind him. Again, Human Shields.
"Weapon," she hissed in his ear, "What weapon?" and Tris tilted his head towards her, murmuring from the corner of his mouth,
"I did say that someone was going to get hurt," he gave her an apologetic look that really didn't helping the situation, "I was just hoping it wouldn't be you." Oh yeah, that was reassuring, thanks crazy hot guy, i'll just calmly carry on with my business now!
"Weapon!" It was abnormally tall black haired one that was calling, his voice slightly high pitched, with a strange crackle to it that reminded Jamie oddly of Tweety Bird. "Give us the weapon!" And wow, TV didn't lie, villains were repetitive,
"You're not having it," Tris called back, "And if you try, well, someone's going to get hurt." Jesus, really? Threats? No, Jamie was more than positive that the villains were the ones who were supposed to make those. But of course, this was her life, as if she could go a day where things actually went as they're supposed to. Really, if Jamie ever wrote a book she'd call it 'A Guide to Life as Jamie Wilson' and the first line would be 'Good fucking luck.' Followed closely by a series of helpful bullet points, including 'Maybe you should just turn back now,' and 'why did you even bother? Honestly, Sometimes she felt like she'd picked up the shittiest community chest in the worst ever version of Monopoly: You have partaken in a cafe brawl, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect £200.
Maybe... maybe if she just let things play out she's wake up, or the game would end! Yes, that would be good, but then there was always the chance that this wasn't a dream, or a game, and she needed to use her 'real life' skills. Jamie supposed that didn't count from someone who had apparently learnt most of her 'real life' skills from Monopoly and futuristic xbox games.